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CEPS Kicks Off Early Election Season


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By Jorge Casuso

Editors note: A previous version of this article stated that Mayor Phil Brock has said he will seek a second term. Brock told The Lookout he will make a decision after July 4.

June 4, 2024 -- An education advocacy group announced its endorsements in three local races Tuesday, kicking off what promises to be Santa Monica's earliest election season.

Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) announced it is backing challengers Dan Hall, Ellis Raskin, Barry Snell and Natalya Zernitskaya in the race for four Council seats.

CEPS on Tuesday also made endorsements in the races for College and School boards, backing mainly the incumbents.

The City's powerful tenant group Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) and the Democratic Club will follow suit, holding their nominating conventions in late June, two to three months earlier than usual.

"There's just a general sense that the Santa Monica election cycle is something of the past," said CEPS Co-Chair Ted Winterer, who served two terms on the Council.

"Fundraising is starting earlier," Winter said. "The cycle has shifted. You're seeing that in LA and across the nation."

In the race for three seats on the School Board, CEPS endorsed incumbents Jon Kean, Maria Leon-Vazquez and Jennifer Smith.

The group also endorsed College Board incumbents Rob Rader and Margaret Quinones-Perez, as well as Rent Board member Anastasia Foster, who is seeking to replace Susan Aminoff, who is retiring.

"All of these candidates have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to public education in our community," CEPS said in a press release, adding that the November 5 election comes "at a time of challenging budgets, especially at City Hall."

The endorsed candidates "will keep our children safe; assure continued City funding for SMMUSD; support essential after school programs; and advocate for secure, low-impact routes to schools," CEPS officials wrote.

November's closely watched race will determine the balance of power on the seven-member City Council, where the Change faction holds a one seat majority over the liberal establishment.

Councilmember Oscar de la Torre said he plans to run for re-election, while incumbent Mayor Phil Brock and Councilmember Christine Parra told The Lookout they have not decided whether they will seek a second term.

The liberal establishment slate will field four challengers after Councilmember Gleam Davis, who has served on the Council since 2009, confirmed longstanding rumors that she will not seek reelection.

In the 2022 Council race, Raskin, who chairs the Planning Commission, and Zernitskaya, who served on the City's Audit Subcommittee, split the liberal vote, paving the way for the re-election of Lana Negrete ("Dem Club Membership Breaks with Tradition in 'Surprising Upset,'" September 30, 2022).

Also vying for the upcoming endorsements from SMRR and the Democratic Club are DTSM board member Ericka Lesley, who chairs Santa Monica’s Rent Control Board, and Marcus Owens, a newcomer to Santa Monica politics.

The nomination period for local races takes place from July 15 to August 19 and will be extended to August 24 if an incumbent does not file.

The LA County Registrar will begin mailing Vote by Mail ballots to voters on October 7. The last day to register to vote is October 21. Election Day is November 5.

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